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When is the best time to get a flu shot?  What type should I get?


Flu season is fast approaching and now is the time for residents to consider getting the flu shot each year.

Although the flu is often relatively mild, infection can have dangerous or even fatal consequences for some. And that risk is a big reason health officials are encouraging nearly everyone to roll up their sleeves and try to stem the spread.

Here is an introduction to flu vaccines, based on information shared by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:

When is the best time to get a flu shot?

September and October are ideal times to get your flu shot. But if you miss that window, it’s still worth getting it later in cold and flu season, even through January or later.

What type of flu shot should I get?

Health officials suggest that people aged 65 and over receive a higher dose or “adjuvanted” flu vaccine. An adjuvant is an ingredient that helps create a stronger immune response.

As for the flu vaccine, there are three types recommended for the elderly, all with long and convoluted names: HD-IIV4, or high-dose inactivated quadrivalent influenza vaccine; RIV4, or quadrivalent recombinant influenza vaccine; and VIIaa, or quadrivalent inactivated influenza vaccine with adjuvant.

But don’t worry if none of these items are available. The CDC says any other age-appropriate flu vaccine is also acceptable.

Who should get the flu shot?

Anyone 6 months and older, with rare exceptions.

Can you get the flu shot and the COVID shot at the same time?


Can you get the flu shot if you have COVID-19?

People who are at least moderately ill with COVID-19 should wait until they are well before getting a flu shot.

And for people who are mildly ill or have no symptoms, a person may want to wait “to avoid confusing symptoms of illness with reactions to the vaccine,” the CDC said.

If I have to travel, how soon do I need to get the flu shot for it to be fully effective during my trip?

Ideally, get your flu shot two weeks before you travel.

Is there an alternative to the flu vaccine?

Yes, there is a nasal spray flu vaccine, which can be given to healthy people between the ages of 2 and 49. The spray, however, is not an option for pregnant women or people with weakened immune systems.

Should pregnant women get the flu shot?

Yes. Getting the flu shot helps protect pregnant women from serious illness, while helping to protect the baby from infection for several months after birth.

Can the flu shot give me the flu?

No, it is impossible for a flu shot to give you the flu. Flu vaccines are made from killed flu viruses or contain no virus at all.

The nasal spray flu vaccine contains weakened viruses, but they do not cause flu and are designed not to multiply in relatively warm places like the lungs.

Why are flu shots needed every year?

There are different types of influenza, and the influenza vaccine is reformulated each year to protect against the dominant versions that are expected to circulate each fall and winter. Your immune protection against the flu, provided by the flu vaccine, also weakens over time.

Seasonal vaccines are designed to protect against both infection and disease. Studies indicate that getting the flu shot reduces the risk of illness by 40 to 60 percent, according to the CDC. A study, published in 2018, suggests that adults who were vaccinated against the flu reduced their risk of being admitted to an intensive care unit by 82%.

Why should I consider getting vaccinated?

The flu is not just a cold. Usually the flu is more serious and can cause sudden onset of symptoms – including fever, aches, chills, fatigue, weakness, chest discomfort, cough and headache – which are sometimes severe enough to require hospitalization. The flu can also be associated with serious complications like bacterial infections.

Recovering from the flu can take days or even weeks, “but some people will develop complications (such as pneumonia) from the flu, some of which can be life-threatening,” the CDC says. The flu can also trigger inflammation of the heart, brain, or muscle tissue.

In the decade that ended with the 2019-20 season, an average of about 35,000 Americans died from the flu each year.

Who is most at risk?

Those most at risk of influenza include people over the age of 65; those with chronic health conditions such as asthma, diabetes or heart disease; pregnant people; and children under 5 years old, especially those under 2 years old.

But even young and relatively healthy people can become seriously ill. And, officials note, they can unwittingly transmit the flu to someone who is less equipped to fight off the infection.

What other viruses should I be aware of?

The flu presents a recurring, if somewhat predictable, health challenge. But the past year has seen an unusual convergence: a “tripledemic” when flu season arrived at the same time as an attack of the respiratory syncytial virus, or RSV; as well as a resurgence of COVID-19.

Hospitals were strained last fall and winter due to respiratory illnesses. Early estimates suggest there have been approximately tens of thousands of flu deaths nationwide, as well as hundreds of thousands of flu hospitalizations.

This year, protection against RSV is available for the first time in the form of vaccines for people aged 60 and over and monoclonal antibodies for babies and young children, recommended before possible infection. Their administration could help reduce the impact of RSV this year.

Updated COVID-19 vaccines – formulated, like flu vaccines, in the hope of providing protection against the dominant strains in circulation – should also be available, possibly as early as next week.